Happy (belated) Anniversary!

Somehow, I let the first anniversary of this blog pass by without mention. That’s because I don’t associate the start of the blog with a date, rather I link it to an event – AIIM Expo. People attending a presentation I made at AIIM Expo 2008 suggested I start a blog. I procrastinated a full year, but after being hounded by my daughter, I wrote the first entry the day before AIIM Expo 2009 opened. I have often thought about a “recap” post, but there has always been something better to share – the same is true today. I conducted a training session last week that several people told me was “the best ever training on SharePoint.” What was my secret? Nothing. OK, I did do something for an hour, but I didn’t really conduct any “training”. I didn’t teach anyone how to build a list, add metadata columns, add a Web Part or change the permissions for a site. In fact, all I did was lead a tour, a tour of our SharePoint sites.

Most people only ever see a slice of SharePoint, the Sites, Lists and Libraries they use. Some people don’t even know why the Site looks and functions the way it does, they simply know how to use it. I described SharePoint in six functional terms:

  • Full service web site
  • Mixed-use sites
  • Record keeping
  • Working repositories
  • Project support sites
  • Meeting preparation and support sites

I, along with some of my coworkers, assembled 23 PowerPoint slides describing sites that fell into one or more of these categories. We described the sites in terms of “What was the goal” or “What problems were we trying to solve?” Next, we talked about what we did to achieve the goal and how well that is working. But, before showing any of those slides, I did the thing people attending a presentation ALWAYS want you to do – I shut PowerPoint off! I explained that the handout of those 23 slides that they were holding, was theirs to use for taking notes. Then, I entered the browser. By the way, if you ever wondered if there is a practical limit to the number of tabs you can open in IE-8, it must be higher than 25. For each topic, I had selected and pre-loaded an example site from either our internal SharePoint farm or our Internet facing customer farm. It turns out that sitting there, seeing what your coworkers are doing today, is a powerful training tool.

The tour illustrated so many important things about SharePoint that I can’t possibly mention them all, and keep this blog to my self-imposed 800 word limit. The most significant points are the concepts I had tried to “teach” in previous sessions but never managed to describe well enough:

SharePoint is Malleable – I know this, you know this, but it is hard to teach someone how flexible SharePoint really is. But, if you show six Team Sites that don’t resemble each other in almost any way, people begin to understand the concept.

SharePoint Sites Don’t Have to be Permanent – Since people assume that it is hard to build a SharePoint site or solution, they sometimes shy away from asking for sites they might only need for a few weeks. We demonstrated sites that we have built for projects as short as one week and as long as four years.

SharePoint Supports the Way You Work – We visited sites designed with metadata columns that allow us to look at large volumes of documents in many small clusters. We showed what you can do in SharePoint that you can’t possibly do with documents stored in folders. We showed how Workflows can support, track and sometimes eliminate manual document processing. Most important, we showed how these features are built around individual requirements.

SharePoint Works – SharePoint works for collaboration and SharePoint works for ECM, more important, when designed properly, collaboration and ECM support each other. Wait, that’s this year’s presentation at AIIM, I’m going to hold off on that.

SharePoint does work. It works today and it’s going to work even better in a few short weeks when SharePoint 2010 is officially released. In a few short days, I am going to join many other people telling that story at AIIM Expo 2010. AIIM Expo is way more than stories though, it is an opportunity to learn how to apply best practices to SharePoint or any other Collaboration, ECM, BPM, ERM, etc. solution you might have. If you don’t have a solution, someone on the show floor will be happy to show you one you can buy.